Mystery tree with large 5-lobed leaves

annieinaustin(z8 Austin)October 3, 2010

I may have done something really stupid - left something growing in the newest flower bed just in case it was a cool plant that piggy-backed in with a nursery flower. But this plant went from 5-inches tall to 5-feet tall in just a few months. It has long, pointed, deeply-lobed, alternate leaves.

Photos are posted on my blog if anyone has any ideas.

Thanks in advance,

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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texasflip(Nacogdoches, TX z8)

I believe it's a mulberry, probably Morus rubra which has ridiculously variable leaf shapes.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 2:43PM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

Hi Texasflip - thanks! I've grown mulberry trees before and can usually recognize their unsymmetrical 'mitten' leaves.
If this is a mulberry it's breaking the rules! These are very evenly shaped and some of them are 1-foot long. They aren't prickly or spiny and all the leaves have 5 veins.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 3:15PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

The leaves look very much like the papaya trees that have come up from seeds that were meant to compost. The lobes on your tree are more elongated than the papaya I have growing right now, but there are many different varieties of papaya with slightly different shaped leaves.

The first time a papaya tree came up from seeds a couple of years ago it took me a while to figure out what it was.

The is the largest papaya tree that come up this spring. They grow FAST! ...

It's loaded with fruit ...

But I don't think the tree will survive the freeze.

Let us know when you figure out what your mystery tree is.

Here is a link that might be useful: Some pictures of papaya trees to compare ...

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 4:57PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Here's a picture of one of the smaller papaya plants that has been potted up for the San Antonio swap. The stems of the leaves are long because it was growing in the shade. The leaves alternate in coming off the smooth trunk.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 9:32AM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

Good morning, Roselee. Your photos are great, and the fruit forming is impressive. They also make me sure my plant is not one like yours.

It would be much more fun if it were a papaya. It would also be fun if it were a Brunswick Fig as suggested by MSS of Zanthan Gardens via Twitter.

But a blog comment from Michael/ has just about convinced me it's just a Mulberry. He said these long, 5-lobed leaves can appear as a juvenile form on some mulberry trees but the trees make the more recognizable shapes of leaves at maturity. Michael added links to photos and to another GardenWeb forum with a similar looking plant (linked below).

I said "just about convinced" because the shapes sure look right but the leaves in the linked photos don't seem to be as large. Could a foot of rain from Hermine have done that?

There was a Duh Moment here when it hit me that Figs and Mulberries (along with Elms, Osage Oranges & Aztec Rubber Trees) are all in the same family of Moraceae. For me Mulberries were part of my past life in Illinois and Figs are part of life in Austin, Texas. Guess my shooter shovel & I will try to keep it that way if I can dig the mulberry out!

Thanks again from Annie

Here is a link that might be useful: Thread on Name That Plant Forum

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 11:30AM
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Annie: It could be a castor bean plant. The leaves look like that one, and they can get pretty tall, but it's not a tree.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 12:23PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

It's fascinating that so many young plants have the deeply cut lobed leaves so sun can get to the leaves under them, but it sure makes then hard to identify. LOL

One other thing is the papayas that came up in my yard seem to have seven lobs. I don't know if this is true with all of them or not. But anyway it seems like you've ID'd your plant although like you I didn't realize mulberry leaves could get so big.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 1:01PM
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Lynn Marie

I have two copies of that exact same thing growing in my yard. I thought it was an Oak. Of course, I think everything that is not a pine is an Oak. Anyway, cutting it down does not kill it!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 9:06PM
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annieinaustin(z8 Austin)

My friend MSS at Zanthan Gardens has a couple of these growing in her garden, too - she's cut them down, they pop back up, and since they've been through winter temperatures in the teens, they don't seem to be one bit tropical like papaya or castor bean. I guess the very boring reality is we have mulberries and they have to go!


    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 10:30PM
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Love the leaves, sure hope what ever it turns out to be is fine. I have never seen any mulberry tree that ever started with any leaves of this type. All the mulberry trees we have here never have such a straight trunk and they are seeded here by the birds which get more of the fruit than we ever did unless it stayed windy for a couple days.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 10:56PM
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